An entire decade—that’s how long Christina, a San Francisco resident, had to work to get her driver’s license reinstated.
In March 2015, Christina came to the Lawyers’ Committee Second Chance Legal Clinic, explaining that her license was suspended and that she was unable to come up with the fees to get it reinstated. Her offenses were, by all appearances, minor but, her fines were approaching $5,000.
Fortunately for Christina, she was able to find relief through the San Francisco Petition for Release from License Hold, a work-around pilot program that addresses the problem at the back end for a narrow segment of the affected population. After multiple calls to the collections agency that had assumed her debt—once because the payment plan agreement that was mailed to her had errors on it—Christina was able to sign up for a payment plan.
She was also offered a job as Groundskeeper at a farm, which requires her to transport vegetables to elderly people who cannot come to the farm, maintain the irrigation system and drive plant waste to a dump site. As she explained to the court, all of these activities require a driver’s license.
She submitted her petition to the court and a week later, on April 3, 2015, it was granted. It was a ten year journey, the goal of which was simply to reinstate her ability to drive legally.
Still, more than 4 million Californians are without a license for minor violations.
To read more about the problem of license suspension in California, and how we can fix this problem, read our report, “Not Just a Ferguson Problem – How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California.”